Farmers' Agitation Not Focused On Landless Peasants

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) IIM Ahmedabad's recommendations

Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad in a detailed report published in 2006 suggested that a peasant farming system using modern technology of production was better than allocating the land to corporates for farming. The paper titled
“ Corporate Farming in India: Is it a must for Agricultural Development“
(by Prof Sukhpal) Singh says that corporate farming should be discouraged in India and instead suggested farming by marginal farmers and peasants. The paper reads:

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“If agricultural growth is to realise the virtuous circle of growth and distribution, only a peasant farming system using modern technology of production can achieve it, as the East-Asian experience has shown. Not only is it more competitive compared to the capitalist/corporate farming system, but also peasants do respond and adopt new technologies of production whenever opportunity arises. The experience of the Green Revolution in Punjab is an excellent example of this.”

The IIM Ahmedabad report by Prof Sukhpal Singh quoting the findings of noted agri economists Mani and Pandey also suggested increasing the land holding size at the lower end to make the holdings viable. The report further reads:

“This can be done by provision of term credit through Land Development Banks to the small/marginal farmers below the poverty line, so that those willing could purchase land and increase the size of their ownership holdings (Rao, 1995)”

Swaminath Commission Report

The Swaminathan Commission
or Swaminathan Committee
report is discussed a lot these days in the media as agitating farmers want implementation of the said report. On 18th
November 2004 Govt of India constituted a 10 member National Commission on Farmers -NSF under the chairmanship of Dr
M S Swaminathan (1925 to 2023)
a noted agriculture scientist , agronomist and father of green revolution in India who was recently given Bharat Ratna posthumously.
Dr Swaminathan in his 5th
and final report published on Oct 5th
2006 put forward many suggestions and this included suggestions for land reforms in addition to other suggestions.

Like IIM Ahmedabad's suggestions, the Swaminathan Commission also said that large lands have been given away at throw away prices for corporate farming which was undesirable. The report suggested that landless farm labourers should be allotted 1 acre of farmland by Govt with assured water supply.
He also suggested Govt for disallowing conversion of land for real estate at an unprecedented scale.
He said no investments were made for land development and also sought large scale
Public Investments
to make land productive.
He also suggested that Agri Land should be allotted to landless and not given to big firms for growing biofuels. Other recommendations included asset reforms with respect to
various natural resources, supply of good quality seeds, timely & adequate reach of institutional credit, coverage of farmers under a comprehensive national social security scheme like family pension , effective implementation of Minimum Support Price. The agitating farmers are demanding legal guarantee for MSP but Govt of India is adamant to accept this.

What is MSP & challenges for the Government

The Minimum Support Price -MSP is the
price at which the government purchases crops from the farmers. This is meant for 22 crops which includes cereals, pulses, oil seeds, raw jute, raw cotton, sugarcane, coconut, tobacco. This doesn't include the fruits. The MSP
is fixed to protect the farmers against excessive drop in price during market fluctuations.

The Swaminathan Commission Report has suggested that the government should raise the MSP to at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production, also known as the C2+ 50% formula. It includes the imputed cost of capital and the rent on the land (called 'C2') to give farmers 50% returns.

Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare told Rajya Sabha in December last year that the Government had formed an MSP Committee in July 2022, which consists of farmers' representatives, the Central Government, State Governments, Agricultural Economists, and Scientists, etc. The committee's mandate was to frame suggestions to make MSP more effective and transparent. The central government announces MSP based on recommendations from the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Govt claims that CACP takes
into account various factors when suggesting MSP, including overall demand-supply conditions, cost of production, domestic and international prices, intercrop price parity, terms of trade between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, and the potential impact on the country's economy.

The Govt is adamant to give MSP a legal status as they find it
difficult to implement the same once this becomes a law. MSP was introduced in In India in the year 1966-67 to ensure food security amid food scarcity. Despite broad political support for a legal guarantee for MSP, successive governments have failed to make this a law.

The government says that they may not have the necessary physical resources to store the large quantities of agricultural produce for situations when there are no buyers willing to pay the Minimum Support Price (MSP). The government would also be faced with another concern of procurement and the expenditure to make those procurements.

Land Reforms in J&K

Since Independence the agrarian reforms in India have been a major topic of government policy. The effective land reforms haven't taken place in India even as the country has been following a socialist constitution. In Pakistan the situation is worse as the Jagirdari & Zamindari system controls all institutions. Dozens
of the politicians in Pakistan own thousands of acres of land. On contrary to this
the land reforms in Jammu & Kashmir post 1947 is said to be the best not only in India but many agrarian experts say this Land to Tiller Policy of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was the the best in South Asian Big Landed Estates Abolition Act 1950 passed by the J&K Govt headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah placed a ceiling of land ownership at 186 kanals ( 22 acres) for agricultural land. This was seen as an end to the Jagirdari and Zamindari system in J&K.
The rest of the land of a landlord was redistributed among the share-croppers and landless farm labourers without any compensation to the landlord. The peasants of India strongly backed the independence movement and the“Land to the Tiller” policy of the Congress Party but the desired results could not be achieved even 75 years of independence now.


As farmers are protesting around Delhi, the voice of marginal farmers or landless peasants isn't visible at all.
Even the
Swaminathan Commission has highlighted their plight in several of its reports and suggested many reforms including land distribution to them as explained above. The farmers with large
(15 acres plus) are mere 2% of the Indian population but they own more than 26 % of farmlands in India as per 1991-92 report. This is almost the same even now.
On the contrary 40 % of submarginal farmers owned mere 3.80 % of farm land in India 30 years
back and this also hasn't changed much as of now.
As per the 2011 data 263 million persons (26.3 crore) households are involved in farming activities. Out of this 119 million persons are land-owning farmers while 144 million are landless workers and peasants. Unfortunately nobody speaks for these 114 million landless peasants or farm labourers. Even the agitating farmers who are protesting nowadays
also don't pitch their voice for poor farm labourers. In the coming days if the Govt plans to hold any dialogue
with the agitating farmers
I would suggest that the Govt of India must actively consider
distribution of
ceiling surplus , wasteland and other types of state land to these landless peasants and submarginal farmers. These people are highly experienced and the Govt must empower them rather than empowering corporates by allocating them small parcels of land . I believe that would be a revolutionary step Modi Govt can take before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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